Moms.com: Analysis of Integrative Negotiations

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In the "Moms.com" negotiation, I played the role of a representative of an international multimedia corporation looking to perform a syndication sale of one of our top rated shows. The corporation had determined that one station in particular provided the best potential for the largest profit. It was my task to "get the best deal possible" with this station. I prepared for the negotiation by creating a spreadsheet, which allowed me to go over multiple package combinations until I found what I thought to be the best deal under the restrictions placed on me by my corporation. After negotiations began, I quickly discovered that my "best deal", was really my best profit, and that this package would not work for the buyer. After discussing our needs & wants, we were able to work out an agreeable deal that turned out to be the best in the class. This paper covers the importance of exchanging information for integrative agreements, and provides ideas on the types of questions negotiators should ask to maximize efficiency.

Fisher and Ury (1991) say that "without communication there is no negotiation." Communicating by willingly providing information and asking questions develops the relationship and trust between all parties. By sharing information, a negotiator encourages perspective taking and improves the quality of the agreement (class notes, 17/09/04). By gathering information, a negotiator is better able to identify where the value is (Thompson, 2004), and may see potential trades & deals that can maximize the pie (class notes, 17/09/04).

Sharing information does not mean that a negotiator must share his/her BATNA or specific costs and benefits. However, one may elect to share other information such as his/her interests and/or priorities. Providing information assists in developing a "win-win" negotiation (class notes, 17/09/04). In the "Moms.com" negotiation, I began the trust building processes by sharing the hard limits placed upon me by the corporation on the number of runs per episode and years allowed to finance the sale. By freely providing this information, after rejecting the buyer's initial offer, I avoided discouraging or offending the buyer as a result of the rejection. Also, by not providing the actual financial costs of approaching or exceeding these limits, I avoided the issue of anchoring the deal.

By initially sharing information, I created the expectation of reciprocity, which allowed me to gather information with the expectation of receiving a truthful answer. Studies show that a skilled negotiator spends twice as much time "acquiring and clarifying information" than the average negotiator (Shell, 1999). While proposing packages and calculating the financial results, I prompted the buyer for information on what was more important to him with respect to financing terms or the number of runs per episode. Again, without providing the specific financial costs of either, the buyer told me that he prioritized the number of runs per episode over the length of financing. This information was a great help. We discovered that an integrative solution was feasible by increasing his potential profit through raising the number of runs per episode, and decreasing my potential loss by paying more money up front and shortening the finance period.

The discussion, up to this point, supports the fact that exchanging information is a necessity in developing a good negotiated agreement. Effective questioning is a crucial part to the information exchange process (Shell, 1999), and allows a negotiator to efficiently gather the data he/she needs to maximize the pie. There are 5 basic types of questions that allow a negotiator to gather information effectively.

The first type of question is the "opening gambit" (class notes, 17/09/04). This type of question is intended to help determine the "playing ground". The type of information provided by the answer helps to determine the flexibility of the negotiator. An example...
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